HC Deb 12 March 1957 vol 566 cc957-9
8. Mr. Swingler

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what representations he has received from local authorities since the beginning of this year about the effects of high interest rates and the withdrawal of subsidies on local authority housing programmes; and what reply he has made to these representations.

Mr. H. Brooke

Since the beginning of this year, representations have been received from 97 out of 1,468 local authorities. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the reply sent to Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council.

Mr. Swingler

Is the Minister aware that those 97 authorities will very soon be followed by a great many more? Does he know that progressive local authorities are now prevented from building homes at reasonable rents, with the result that there is rising unemployment in the building trade? Will he consult progressive local authorities and reverse his policy?

Mr. Brooke

No, Sir, I cannot help noticing that the rents charged by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council are below the average of those charged by non-county boroughs generally.

Mr. Lindgren

In his reply, is not the right hon. Gentleman evading the point inasmuch as a resolution was passed by the National Conference of the Urban District Councils Association condemning his predecessor, asking for the withdrawal of the Housing Subsidies Bill, and asking the Ministry to receive a deputation? That Association represents 600 local authorities.

Mr. Brooke

I think that my predecessor and the House of Commons were entirely right in reaching this decision about housing subsidies.

Mr. Swingler

Is the right hon. Gentleman telling my constituents that their rents are unreasonably low? Has he studied wage levels in north Staffordshire and having studied them, is he still saying that rents are unreasonably low?

Mr. Brooke

What I am saying is that any local authority in financial difficulties over its housing account should first consider whether it can reasonably increase rents—to some of its tenants who can afford to pay, if not to all—before making a further claim on the national taxpayer.

Mr. S. Silverman

How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the answers which he has given to these questions and those asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) with the declared policy of the Government of assisting housing? Is it not quite clear from his answers that the withdrawal of the general needs subsidies was intended to bring pressure upon local authorities to raise their rents on the basis that they were not entitled to any assistance unless they did so?

Mr. Brooke

Housing by local authorities is still going on at a high level. I very much hope that the action taken last year will lead local authorities to concentrate more and more on the slum clearance problem.

Mr. Mitchison

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the relation between rising rents and wage claims?

Mr. Speaker

That is a large question.